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The Theatreguide.London Review

Blood Wedding
Young Vic Theatre   Autumn 2019

Garcia Lorca's classic tragedy of passion and doom gets as powerful and evocative a production as you could wish for at the hands of adaptor Marina Carr and director Yael Farber.

Lorca's play is set in a hothouse Spanish village, where Catholicism sits alongside pagan superstitions, honour and vengeance are palpable things, and decades-long grievances and hatreds remain alive.

Two families who have taken turns killing each other for as long as anyone can remember are brought together when a man from each clan loves the woman named in the cast list only as Bride..

Leonardo wooed her and was rejected and now the man identified only as Groom wins and weds her. But on impulse she runs away with Leonardo right after the wedding, leading to a meeting of the men that is as fatal as it is inevitable.

Adaptor Carr audaciously moves the play from Spain to Ireland, and it works brilliantly, the sense of an enclosed, religion-and-fable-haunted and honour-obsessed culture translating smoothly.

As a bonus, Lorca's Spanish-rhythmed dialogue spoken in an Irish accent creates a verbal music both beautiful and just other-worldly enough to support Lorca's hints of the supernatural at work.

Yael Farber's direction moves smoothly between modes, from naturalistic to symbolic, serious to comic, poetic to violent.

A chorus-like figure identified only as The Weaver is the voice of history, reminding us of the past, warning of the future and quietly exulting when her dark predictions come true. The scene of the marriage contract being agreed on is black comedy, with the parents of the Bride and Groom bargaining over them as if they were prize cattle.

In a trope I associate with Kneehigh Theatre, passion is made visible through defying gravity, a man's exultant horseback ride presented as he runs about the stage hanging on a rope that makes his feet barely touch the ground.

Later the eloping lovers are literally carried away by their passion in an aerial ballet. And even later it is a dead body that leaves the ground, director Farber creating a powerful visual pun that captures Lorca's equation of love and death.

One thing this production makes very clear is that, despite strong performances by Gavin Drea and David Walmsley, the men are really interchangeable and peripheral. This play belongs to the women in it.

The strongest performance is by Olwen Fouere as the Groom's mother, the embodiment of the feud. The actress dominates the stage in all her scenes, powerfully and rightly reminding us that anger and hatred are at least as much the subject of the play as love.

Aoife Duffin introduces the Bride as quiet, modest and happy in her choice of groom but makes us believe the impulse that forces her to run away and the mix of excitement and foreboding she experiences afterwards.

Brid Brennan as the Weaver carries an ominous air even as she hovers silently around the edges of the action, and Thalissa Teixeira sustains the play's complex emotional atmosphere with evocative scene-punctuating Spanish songs.

At close to two hours without interval, any show could be heavy going. But this Blood Wedding catches you from the opening and holds you within its reality throughout so that whatever time is passing outside the theatre becomes irrelevant.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Blood Wedding - Young Vic Theatre 2019